I remember when I was about ten years old an old coon hound kept coming around my parents' house. He was just a stray with no place else to go I suppose, and he kept returning no matter how hard we tried to run him off.

I don't recall when my daddy had enough of this old dog, but I do remember the results, he took some type of hammer and knocked the dog in the head just inside an old barn behind our house. Daddy left the dog for dead. Unfortunately he was still alive, if only just barely. I woke up that spring night to an awful moaning outside streaming in through my open bedroom window. My bedroom was by chance closest to the old barn, no more than 100 feet.

Being a curious boy I got up and went outside to investigate. I found the old dog laying on his side with a pool of clotted blood underneath his head. I was revolted and broken-hearted by seeing this suffering dog. I remember wondering frantically what to do for it was obvious, even to a child, that the dog could not recover but might linger in this terrible suffering for several more hours.

Some sleepless nights I still wonder about being able to do what I did that night at such a young age, which was  to find inside the barn a small sledge hammer. And, then crying and praying for the old dog to suffer no more, I smashed his skull and gave thanks for the silence that followed. I still feel something of a monster  for doing such a thing, and it took years to forgive my daddy for leaving a living thing in such a state, and for placing me in that situation.

As I lay awake reflecting on such things, a girl about my same age just the year before this dog comes to mind and how she died. She and her family were new to our small community and she was quite different from most nine year old girls. She rode the same bus to school that I did and I member her drawing knives with blood dripping off the blade on her notebook paper. She was, I would say now, quite macabre, a word and idea unsown to me at nine. She favored or was given long dresses, I can’t remember her wearing jeans or pants. She kind of scared my friends and I yet she was not ostracized for she had even at nine considerable talent at drawing even if the subject matter ran towards knives and falcons and witches. We were all curious about her and she talked freely.

I played on a deputy league baseball team called the cubs, a friend named Todd and I went to practice about two afternoons after school each week. It was in the spring, April it seems, Todd’s mom was taking us to practice as we lived several miles from town. Approaching the place where this girl, I don’t even remember her name, lived we saw police cars and traffic stopped. As we approached, I saw a little black shoe in the ditch, Mary Janes I think, and then a doll, and the knife-drawing little girl. The sun was bright and the wind calm. She lay twisted her face skyward and her stomach and legs facing the ground. Just a small amount of blood trickled out of a smooth innocent nine year old girl’s mouth. I knew she was dead as did Todd’s mother, but Todd had not yet understood the significance of a frantic woman running down the road screaming and knocking down anyone in the path to her daughter.

Todd’s mom stopped long enough to discover that a truck had struck the child as she ran for reasons she only knew onto the highway. We left and continued on to our practice area at a local small college. Todd now knew the girl was dead and cried uncontrollably, he could not stay at practice. I stayed and played ball and kept the little girl in my heart. Yet never did I cry for her, until today. I wonder what she would have done, whom she would have loved, how her parents endured the grief.

I now live in a home just down a side street from where this little girl lived for ever so briefly. A car lot now stands where the house did so long ago. I now run in the dark of predawn mornings past where her lifeless body came to rest. I can still pick the spot and see the dress and the face and even hear her voice. So strange I still live and run and she is forever a nameless nine year old girl.

My daddy died with Alzheimer's, and legless below the knee at eighty-two in a nursing home at breakfast on day. While looking on his lifeless form on the bed of his room, his hair short and gray, his skin stretched tight and thin over his cheeks, I remember thinking how disturbing and almost beyond belief t that his face could feel so cold, for I had shaved him for several years and felt only warmth. My daddy; the hammer-wielding dog-killer, the man who raised his grandson as his own, the man who had grown up poor and abused. In fact I knew by the time he was no more than ten, he was plowing behind a mule and being beaten by the mule-skinner's whip of his step-father.

How strange a world, life marked by the killing of an old dog, the body of a nameless nine year old girl in a road ditch and the corpse of my daddy on a hospital bed. The feeling that has never changed in me from nine to thirty-seven and through all these times is the deep desire to be able to fix what was broken. And the tears flow because it is not within a human to be able to do so.